Sunday, October 2, 2011

Roberts' Rule

On Monday October 3 the high priests of our sacred temple of justice arrive to render their services. October 3, 2011 marks the day when “the Nine” Supreme Court Justices return to work in order to provide judgments in the most pressing issues of our time. In our political arena, hardly any issue passes without some sort of judicial decision.

Though we boast, “justice is blind,” Court decisions today all too often appear politically predictable. Greater access to information combined with more and more scrutiny have made our Supreme Court Justices look more like political actors then Platonic guardians of timeless principles.

When John Roberts became Chief Justice, back in 2005, he hoped for a less partisan Court. Unanimous Court decisions continue to be our Court’s most popular. During Roberts’ tenure the Court’s unanimous decisions make up just over 40% of their decisions. Yet today the conservative and liberal blocs continue to be clearly defined. Over 20% of all Court decisions end in a 5 – 4 decision.

Under Roberts' rule the conservatives often find themselves in the majority. According to the SCOTUS blog Stat Pack the conservative Justices clearly vote with the majority more than the others. Justice Kennedy, often the swing vote, sided with the majority 94% of the time last term. The other conservatives; Roberts, Thomas, Scalia and Alito, sided with the majority close to 88% of the time.

The leading liberal on the Court, Justice Ginsberg, agreed with Justice Alito only 62% of the time. Contrast that with Chief Justice Roberts who sided with Alito 96% of the time.

This widely perceived Court partisanship might play a role in the upcoming presidential election. Both conservatives and liberals alike have called upon the Supreme Court to address once and for all the constitutionality of Obama Care. There will be other cases of note but none bigger then if the Court rules on the controversial individual health care mandate provision of Obama Care.

Both President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts pledged to rule in a post partisan fashion. As we welcome back the Court on Monday Roberts’ rule has been anything but post partisan. Political circumstances have put Roberts’ rule on a “collision course” with the Obama Administration.

To “the Nine” we say, “Welcome back.” We look forward to your rulings. The conservative to watch this year may not be running for President. The conservative to watch may be Chief Justice John Roberts. 2012 looks to be Obama’s rule versus Roberts’ rule.

For our Court enthusiasts we invite you to join our Supreme Court Fantasy League. Follow the guidelines below.

United States Supreme Court
2011 Fantasy League


1. Research both the Court case and the views of each Supreme Court judge. Predict the Court’s decision by checking which judges will side with the majority.
2. Score 10 points if you are able to predict the Court’s final decision. Give yourself 5 points if you predict the Court’s vote total.
3. Give yourself 2 additional points for each judge you predicted would be in the majority and 1 point for each judge you predicted would be in the minority.
4. Draft one judge (Draft selection will be determined by lottery. Trading will be allowed). Every time that judge is in the majority give yourself 5 points.
5. Person with the most points at the end of the term wins.
6. Keep track by printing out the scorecards linked here.

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